Touch some grass
Speaking to the New York Times four years ago, Shigeru Miyamoto offered a telling insight into his hiring process. “I always look for designers who aren’t super-passionate game fans,” he said, explaining that the best candidates were those who “have a lot of different interests and skill sets”. Some of Nintendo’s brightest lights had little to no prior experience of the medium when they joined, which helps explain how it has sustained its standing as an innovator: it doesn’t just look to other games for inspiration.
It is often the influences that come from outside videogames that add the distinctive touches to make new games stand out in crowded genres. Breakout Gamescom hit DokeV blends elements of traditional and contemporary Korean culture – while the convincing behaviours of its young cast, inspired by its developers watching their own children at play, add a sheen of authenticity to this monster-catching adventure.
In Sony’s recent showcase, Awaceb’s Tchia drew plenty of admiring eyes. The game’s soul-jumping mechanic that allows you to inhabit local wildlife (and the odd coconut) is an appealing idea, yet it is the specificities of its setting, inspired by the islands of New Caledonia where the studio’s two co-founders grew up, that set it apart.
Hobbies or previous careers can provide a vital spark, too. The Wandering Village, a city-builder set on the back of a colossal beast, draws from Stray Fawn co-founder Philomena Schwab’s background in biology. Chuhai Labs’ Cursed To Golf could easily have been Cursed To Tennis had director Liam Edwards not taken to the links as a child. Then there’s Daniel Benmergui’s Storyteller, whose literary influences refined an idea that somehow no one else has attempted during its 13 years in development. These games remind us that we can all benefit from shutting down our consoles and computers every so often, and let ourselves be creatively energised by our passions and interests outside the medium.